A great way to boost your business profile and reach is through networking and partnership marketing. Aligning yourself with another business to deliver a product/service, will allow you to extend your customer base and boost your profile within the marketplace.
Typically, partnerships are formed when two or more companies find value for their customers in each other’s products and/or services. (Source: www.cocommunications.com).
Partnership marketing is about finding people who offer complementary services and products who can work with you, or alongside you, to sell your services or products or expand the offering you provide to customers. For example, it could be an arrangement between an architect and a bricklayer, an electrician and a painter, a marketing consultant and an accountant, a hairdresser and a beautician, or an advertiser and a PR. The idea is that the two entities complement each other and provide value to a customer over and above the experience of buying from one alone. It is worth taking a moment to look at your business and see who could be assisting you grow.
Networking (a term I find really distasteful because it is far too contrived and prescriptive) is about getting out, mixing with and meeting people personally. It is about you and your brand being seen and the benefits can be many, including providing the opportunity to:
- Introduce your brand and services/products
- Be educated: you may have the opportunity to learn new things
- Find out what is going on in your market
- Find out what is going on outside your markets
- Meet new people
- Be referred
- Find people who have solved the challenges you face before
- Find new suppliers and consultants
- Find new prospects and customers
- Make new friends
- Build your database with new contacts
- Connect people you know and like
- Increase your sphere of influence
- Put names to faces
If you are going to use networking as a tool to build your brand, I recommend you are open to listening and learning. Be prepared to talk about your services and your products. This is your chance to have your company or service represented in a personal way.
Why it works
A universal truth in business is that most companies grow either in reputation or directly in sales by referral or word of mouth. This is known as third party endorsement and is usually spontaneous, objective, honest and free! So it inevitably carries more weight than any other marketing tools. In our technically advanced and modern world—which I take full advantage of and use daily—I believe strongly that face-to-face contact is still vital. We are social animals and people like to see who they are dealing with. Your prospective customers are no different.
We are currently experiencing some of the biggest changes in human history, both economically and technically. These include a dramatic rise in the use of social media, technology leaping ahead faster than ever before, alongside a challenged economic climate, financial pressure, slow cashflow cycles and increasing competition. At the end of the day, when times are tough, little beats a fully endorsed personal referral to a prospective client.
Extending your spheres of influence
Most businesses start with one client and, via referrals, gradually extend their spheres of influence by forming strong relationships that need to be maintained. Whether we like it or not, some success in life comes through the people you know, so it’s important they speak well of your company. If someone thinks well of you, chances are they are going to buy or refer you and your services. These days particularly, what people think is instant with online mediums out there providing the link to an immediate audience that is global.
Networking is one way to increase the spheres of influence and spread the word; a lesson big business should hold close to hand. Much business can be generated from meeting someone face-to-face and it is has never been more important to be out there mixing with influencers, champions or potential buyers who can influence the success and sales of your business. We actively get ourselves out there and most importantly, have fun, and make it fun, in doing so
At my company, as an example, 70 percent of our new business comes from referrals. So it’s common sense, when times are tough, to get out there and be seen.
Who might you meet?
The people you meet can be divided up into groups. It’s worth preparing for the chance to meet:
- Potential buyers
- Current buyers (customers)
- Champions (those who think you do a good job and would talk positively about your company or services)
- Potential staff
Be conscious of this in your choice of which events to attend. Your time is precious and the events should be bringing you a return.
How to manage it effectively
If you decide to make the leap into partnership marketing programs, my advice is to take good advice from experts. Meanwhile here are some tips:
1. Brainstorm what you can jointly sell and who can sell it for you. Are you finding people to partner with formally—on a legal footing—or informally? What other businesses around you have the same target market? What are your expectations of return on investment (ROI)?
2. Locate partners that have already built a database and would benefit from your amalgamated offer. Your offer should be a win-win for both of you.
3. Develop compelling sales material and provide your partners with the sales pitch and relative promotional material. You want to make their job of marketing your products or services as easy as possible. The less work they have to do, the more likely they are to promote your products or services.
4. Continually be on the lookout for new partners. Don’t rest on your laurels. Protect yourself by actively recruiting new partners. You can find them by advertising your program on your website, listing or advertising in relevant directories, or by contacting potential partners directly.
5. Take care of your partners. Communicate with them regularly and send out updates on product additions or changes. Give them tips and advice on how to be successful in marketing your products. It also helps to pay them on time!
How do you know it’s working?
Keep a track of where you get business from in a simple Excel spreadsheet or in your CRM software and track where each piece of business comes from. It is so important to measure this. Then you can be sure where your marketing spend is best focused in future.
-Sharon Williams is CEO of Taurus Marketing and a member of the Dynamic Business expert panel.
Associations and Mentor groups
A definition: A supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.
Here are some of the mentor groups and associations that may help:
- Australian British Chamber of Commerce www.britishchamber.com
- Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) www.pria.com.au
- American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) www.amcham.com.au
- Australian Businesswomen’s Network (ABN) www.abn.org.au
- The Executive Connection (TEC) www.tec.com.au
- Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) www.ami.org.au
- Australian Institute of Company Directors ( AICD) www.companydirectors.com.au
- Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA) www.cosboa.org
- Australian Institute of Management (AIM) www.aim.com.au
- Aust Professional Services Marketing Association (APSMA) www.apsma.com.au
- Females in Technology & Telecommunications (FITT) www.fitt.org.au
- Business Chicks www.businesschicks.com.au
People who read this, also liked:
Niche IT suppliers should collaborate on social media
Big business selling secrets – advice for SMEs